The mediating path to a stronger citizenship: Online and offline networks, weak ties, and civic engagement

Homero Gil de Zúñiga, Sebastián Valenzuela

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

290 Scopus citations


Empirical studies of citizen communication networks and participation go as far back as the 1940s, with a bolder focus in political-not civic-activities. A consistent finding reveals that individuals with larger networks are more engaged than those with smaller networks. This article expands this line of work with a number of novel tests. First, it compares the predictive power of online versus offline network size on civic engagement. It then explores the role of strong-tie versus weak-tie discussion frequency and participatory behaviors. Finally, it examines the extent to which the contribution of network size, both online and offline, on civic engagement is mediated by discussion with weak ties. Using original survey data from a large national sample of U.S. adults, results indicate that (1) the relationships between online and offline network size and civic engagement are positive and fairly similar in strength, (2) weak-tie discussion is the strongest predictor of civic behaviors, (3) weak-tie discussion largely mediates the association between participation and network size online and offline, and (4) online networks entail greater exposure to weak ties than offline networks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)397-421
Number of pages25
JournalCommunication Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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